Description of Contents
“The Maths Guy in Belgium” is a website created by a British Mathematics teacher living in Brussels. Among other things, his website dedicated to mathematics learning contains one page with an overview of five learning difficulties (“dys-” troubles). For each one there is an explanation, a description of the symptoms, relevant links to resources, and descriptions of how it affects mathematics. The learning troubles addressed here are:
• Dyslexia: a continuum of difficulties in learning to read, write and/or spell, which persist despite the provision of appropriate learning opportunities. These difficulties often do not reflect an individual's cognitive abilities and may not be typical of performance in other areas.
• Dyspraxia: developmental dyspraxia is an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. It is an immaturity in the way that the brain processes information, which results in messages not being properly or fully transmitted. The term dyspraxia comes from the word praxis, which means 'doing, acting'. Dyspraxia affects the planning of what to do and how to do it. It is associated with problems of perception, language and thought.
• Dysgraphia: it is most often used to describe having a severe problem with handwriting and is a neurological disorder. Dysgraphia is also described as a difficulty in automatically remembering and mastering the sequence of muscle motor movements needed in writing letters or numbers.
• Dyscalculia: a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence.
• Attention deficit disorder: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity).
The page on learning difficulties is easy to find from the homepage (just next to the “home” button). It is user-friendly and very well structured. For each learning trouble, there is a dedicated page (clicking on the illustrations) with the following paragraphs:
• “What is it?”: a definition of the trouble borrowed from a specialised agency, which is always quoted (for the definitions, see the content description above)
• “Symptoms”: description of the various phenomena that affect people suffering from the trouble. It includes the difficulties that can be experienced in class, but also other practical examples from daily life (e.g.: people who suffer from dyscalculia will have problems using money).
• “How can it affect Maths?”: in this section are described the various skills necessary for mathematics learning that are affected by the trouble.
For each trouble, there is also a link to a dedicated foundation or organisation and sometimes other references (the author always quotes his sources). For dyscalculia and dyslexia, there is also a list of recommended books dedicated to those problems in relation to mathematics.
The author is a mathematics teacher and his website is dedicated to maths learning. Mathematics is therefore the focus of the descriptions. However, the author adds that most of it can be applied to other courses. Many of the problems described affect skills that are necessary for learning and class activities in general (short-term memory, copying quickly and accurately from the blackboard...).
This website is addressed to the general audience and is easy to understand. It can be used by anyone but the descriptions of the symptoms and the explanation on how it can affect maths and learning make it a very useful tool for teachers to spot those problems among their students, mathematics teachers in particular.
The content is not very long but for those who want to know more about one (or more) specific trouble, there are relevant links to websites specifically dedicated to each of the problems. Only one of the links is dead (the BBC article on dyscalculia). All the content and all of the links are in (good) English.